ISeeChange and NASA Launch Citizen Science App

ISeeChange and NASA Launch Citizen Science App

Communities in Harlem, New Orleans, and Los Angeles will pilot investigations that document environmental change and enhance climate research.

The ISeeChange Tracker app, which was created in collaboration with NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 Mission, will further ISeeChange’s mission to empower communities to document weather and climate trends and provide a satellite view visualization of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most directly connected to human action, for the first time through NASA’s OCO-2 satellite.

Users will have a streamlined tool to document their experiences with extreme heat, flooding, and changes in landscapes and urban trees, among other investigations in the Tracker app. Community reporting has already allowed ISeeChange to document early springs in 2012 and 2015, longer growing seasons, marine life impacted by an unusually warm Pacific, ongoing droughts and wildfires, changing bird migration patterns, as well as increasing tick-borne diseases.

“We’ve made something utterly unique–a way to combine stories and CO2 data that puts communities in charge of their own climate records,” said Drapkin. “Now we are asking the public to help us look into specific issues such as heat islands, to help count and report on trees, or simply take pictures of their favorite landscapes or street flooding. Not every ‘change’ is climate change, but the more people document what’s happening in their backyards year to year, the better we’ll be able to establish baselines, see trends, and target solutions to deal with it.”

Click To Tweet

“NASA’s satellites provide a vital service as they routinely assess the state and health of Earth’s systems from the remote reaches of space, but is important to ‘ground-truth’ what we are detecting from space by comparing those measurements with observations from the Earth’s surface,” said Amy Kaminksi, senior policy advisor in the Office of the Chief Scientist at NASA Headquarters. “Citizens taking note of developments in their communities can help with that process.”

Currently, NASA’s OCO-2 satellite is collecting carbon dioxide measurements across the planet, up to a million times per day. Now, as the satellite passes over certain areas of the country, ISeeChange app users will provide context and make observations on their current environment. These photos and multiple sources of data are relayed to scientists, providing context to the satellite data which may help them flag environmental inconsistencies and be useful in studying more complex climate trends.

“2015 ranked as the hottest year in recorded history and some researchers think that we have entered the era where we will not see atmospheric carbon dioxide fall below 400ppm. Along with NASA’s OCO-2 and our aggregation of data from users on the ground, we are providing that crucial data baseline to better document how the Earth is responding to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said Karen Yuen of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory Mission. “By having all this information gathered, we can provide an important contribution to studying regional changes and phenomenons.”

Community Investigations

With the newly launched app, ISeeChange is collaborating with its partners across the nation to call communities together to document the impacts of weather and climate on daily life. Local and community investigations include:

Harlem Heat Project: ISeeChange teamed up to investigate how summer heat affects the health of residents of Harlem with New York’s award-winning flagship public radio station WNYC, climate news service AdaptNY, and community partners from Harlem including WE ACT for Environmental Justice, radio station WHCR-FM90.3 and experts from City College of New York. The teams use experimental sensor-based data reporting techniques to capture hard-to-access residential temperature data with the help of a crew of community-based citizen scientists acting as “ambassadors” to the storied neighborhood. Stories and data will be synced and made available to participants with the Tracker app.

Field Photo Weekend: ISeeChange is helping to create a photographic index of drought nationwide working with CoCoRaHS, a network of 20,000 rain gauge observers, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), and the Earth Observation and Modeling Facility (EOMF). Landscape photographs on the ISeeChange Tracker app will be taken by contributors in the same locations and compared to the U.S.Drought Monitor data, as well as carbon and temperature data already available on ISeeChange.org.

New Orleans Flood Watch: ISeeChange is gearing up to crowdsource flooding and subsidence in New Orleans working with NASA JPL scientists and local partners in targeted locations. A combination of photographs, crowdsourced stories, rain gauges, and gauge boards will be used to create a record of standing water, infrastructure impacts, and storm events in the city that can help ground truth remotely sensed subsidence data.

Los Angeles Urban Tree Map: ISeeChange and its community and media partners in Los Angeles will work together to map trees, many of which have been severely affected by the recent drought. Mapping a city’s trees can inform local response to urban heat, drought, water supply, water quality, street repair, and flood management.

“ISeeChange provides the perfect way for anyone to easily get involved in climate change conversation,” said Amber Kleinman, a long-time observer for ISeeChange from Colorado. “Personally, my head always becomes full of questions about the environment whenever I am outdoors. With ISeeChange, I now have the ability to share my questions and photo observations with others in my community, while also helping paint a bigger picture of our changing climate.”

“It’s a profound lens for communities doing citizen science,” said Greg Newman, director and founder of CitSci.org and board president of the Citizen Science Association. “ISeeChange is bottom-up and locally told from the public’s perspective, not from the scientist’s.”

The ISeeChange app is now available for iOS and is available to download in the App Store. Android users can participate in ISeeChange investigations on their phones via the mobile website. To learn more about ISeeChange and to stay up to date on all environmental happenings occurring in your backyard or across the globe, visit iseechange.org.